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Analysis, background reports and updates from the PBS NewsHour putting today's news in context.

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    Ben Carson, President-elect Donald Trump's nominee to be secretary of housing and urban development, is seen at a meeting with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in his office at the Capitol in Washington, U.S. December 7, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RTSV5TH

    Ben Carson, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to be secretary of housing and urban development, is seen at a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in his office at the Capitol. Photo by REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

    WASHINGTON — While Ben Carson’s celebrated career as a neurosurgeon leaves no doubt about his medical credentials, his lack of experience in government and public policy are raising questions about his qualification to serve as housing secretary.

    President-elect Donald Trump wants Carson, a former rival for the Republican presidential nomination, to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, a sprawling agency with 8,300 employees and a budget of about $48 billion.

    Carson, in remarks prepared for Thursday’s hearing before the Senate Banking, House and Urban Affairs Committee, talked about growing up in inner-city Detroit with a single mother who had a third-grade education. She worked numerous jobs to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.

    “I understand housing insecurity,” he said in the prepared testimony, and credited his mother with showing him the importance of perseverance and hard work.

    Carson said he wants to help heal America’s divisiveness, and that the department could play a role. “I see HUD as part of the solution, helping ensure housing security and strong communities,” he said.

    Democrats in the GOP-run Senate are questioning his experience and priorities. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., told Carson in a letter that the agency needs a strong, capable leader who believes in its mission.

    “There is relatively little in the public record that reveals how you would further HUD’s mission to ‘create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all,'” Warren said.

    Among the dozens of questions in the letter: What does Carson think about the condition of public housing? Should ending homelessness among veterans be a priority? How would he ensure equal access to HUD programs to same-sex couples and others.

    Several former HUD secretaries, Democrats and Republicans, wrote the committee in support of Carson, saying they believe Carson will listen to staff to help fulfill HUD’s mission of affordable homes and inclusive communities. The letter was signed by Henry Cisneros, secretary under President Bill Clinton, and Mel Martinez, Alphonso Jackson and Steven Preston, who worked for President George W. Bush.

    The soft-spoken Carson, the only black major-party candidate in 2016 presidential race, grew up poor. He attended Yale University and the University of Michigan Medical School, and was the first African-American named as head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore.

    In 1987, at age 35, Carson pioneered surgery to separate twins joined at the back of the head. In 2013, he entered the national political spotlight when, during the National Prayer Breakfast, he railed against the modern welfare state. President Barack Obama was sitting just feet away.

    Carson had said little publicly about affordable housing, homelessness and other HUD-related issues. Last summer, he criticized an Obama administration fair housing rule as government overreach.

    Associated Press writer Kevin Freking contributed to this report.

    The post Carson’s qualifications to be housing chief questioned by Democrats appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. President-elect Donald Trump calls on a reporter during a news conference in the lobby of Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., January 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson - RTX2YIO6

    President-elect Donald Trump calls on a reporter during a news conference in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York. Photo by REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

    NEW YORK — The marble-lined lobby of Trump Tower was standing-room only for the main event: President-Elect Trump’s first full blown news conference since July. The pent-up demand to question Mr. Trump was about to be satisfied.

    Two hours before the session was to begin, all the seats had already been spoken for. News organizations from around the world were represented: The major U.S. television networks, the BBC (“That’s another beauty,” Mr. Trump sniffed) and someone whose mic flag identified him as being from something called “Cheddar” (“I’m from Monterey Jack,” a still photographer muttered).

    WATCH: Donald Trump’s first news conference as president-elect

    The venue may be more familiar as the site where the comings-and-goings for audiences with the president-elect are tracked by television cameras. The set-up has meant that people going up to the Trump offices have had to push through the crowd of reporters, as former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani did at one point.

    Rather than gliding down an escalator as he did for his campaign announcement, Mr. Trump emerged on Wednesday from the rear of a crowded elevator, preceded by his children and close aides, including White House Chief of Staff-to-be Reince Preibus.

    The president-elect seemed buoyant, sounding nostalgic for facing the press. “It’s very familiar territory, news conferences, because we used to give them on an almost daily basis,” he said. “I think we probably won the nomination because of news conferences and it’s good to be with you.”

    Why did he stop? “We were getting quite of bit of inaccurate news,” he said, bringing him to the topic of the allegations that Russia holds compromising information about him.

    Mr. Trump found a rare opportunity to praise news organizations who did not report the details of the dossier. “There were some news organizations will all that was just that that were so professional—so incredibly professional, that I’ve just gone up a notch as to what I think of you,” he said.

    READ MORE: Donald Trump’s press conference was a press confrontation

    Unlike his two immediate predecessors as president, who walked into news conferences with a list compiled by their press secretaries of which reporters to call on, Mr. Trump called on reporters at will, scanning the crowd for familiar faces—the first question went to John Roberts of Fox News—and calling on those he clearly did not know. He deliberately snubbed Jim Acosta of CNN with a dismissive, “You are fake news.”

    That brought cheers from his son, Eric, some staffers and a few members of the public who, despite the need for Secret Service-approved credentials, managed to get in.

    The question of security had come up in December when POLITICO reported that Mr. Trump intended to put longtime security chief Keith Schiller on the White House staff. The retired New York cop and Navy veteran was eventually named director of Oval Office Operations, a job whose exact duties vary from administration to administration.

    Transition officials took pains to say that security would still be the job of the Secret Service.

    Toward the end of the news conference, a photographer seemed to catch Schiller’s attention. The photographer, a long-time White House regular, had moved to the center of the front row of reporters, crouching on the floor. He remained behind the stanchions and never breached the area between the red velvet ropes and the lectern, known as “the buffer.”

    Schiller made a beeline for the Secret Service agent in the buffer and began an animated, whispered conversation, energetically pointing at the photographer.

    The agent glanced over at the photographer, quietly and unobtrusively going about his job, and silently gave an almost imperceptible shrug.

    The post What reporters saw at the Trump news conference appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    One way or another, tax proposals by whoever becomes president will affect most Americans. Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    HONOLULU — Lawmakers in Hawaii and several other states want to prevent presidential candidates from appearing on their states’ ballots unless the candidates release their tax returns.

    They’re responding to President-elect Donald Trump’s decision to not release his tax returns during the presidential campaign, breaking decades of precedent.

    The Hawaii bill would require candidates to release five years of federal and state tax returns to qualify for the ballot, state Rep. Chris Lee said Wednesday. Similar proposals are circulating in California, Massachusetts and New Mexico.

    WATCH: Is Trump’s plan for his company enough to avoid conflicts of interest?

    “It’s a reasonable step since every modern president has released their tax returns and put their assets into a blind trust to make sure the only interest they have is the interest of our country and its people,” Lee said. “I think we’re in a very dangerous climate in which that could change.”

    Lee consulted with lawyers who assured him it’s legal, and if the bill passes it will undergo a thorough review from the state attorney general, he said.

    Lee is still working out details on the Hawaii bill, but he plans to include a way to make the tax returns public. In the Massachusetts bill, that state’s Secretary of State would be required to make the tax returns public within a month of each vote.

    “If even one or two states take action, it changes the game,” Lee said.

    Trump has interests in 500 companies in about 20 countries, according to a disclosure document released in May.

    California state Sens. Scott Wiener and Mike McGuire are planning to introduce similar legislation, saying financial information should be made available to voters to build critical public trust.

    Nationwide, about two-thirds of registered voters said it’s somewhat or very important for presidential candidates to release their tax returns, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll in September.

    The post States are writing bills to require presidential candidates to release tax returns appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Baseline Explorer

    HAMILTON, BERMUDA — “So, the sub is going to tip forward, that’s normal. Then it’s going to roll on its back, just tip back a little bit, that’s also normal. Here we go!”

    That’s my co-pilot Kelvin Magee. The two of us are barefoot inside the Nomad, a two-person submersible. The captain shouts orders as the crew work cranes and levers.

    Divers paddle nearby, ready to guide our path or rescue us. Everyone is tense because the water is choppy. One wrong wave could toss the 7,000-pound Nomad into the ship’s stern. Magee, a member of the Nekton mission, flips a switch, and our four-hour journey to the seafloor begins.

    Then the ocean swallows us. The submersible drops 110 feet in four minutes, as the sunlight fades. Rather than feel suffocated by claustrophobia, the opposite happens. The dwindling sunrays reveal a welcoming expanse, full of tranquility.

    As we descend, my mind drifts to the corals below and their collective fate around the world. Many creatures will lose against global warming, but coral reefs are exceptionally vulnerable.

    The Nekton Mission is an alliance of 30 organizations conducting the longest seafloor survey in history. Think of it as a physical exam for the ocean. Future groups will be able to use the mission’s baseline findings to chart how oceans will respond to human-made threats like global warming. The project is sponsored by XL Catlin, a global insurance company from Ireland that has sponsored similar environmental surveys since 2009. None of the work is proprietary, and the data are open access so other researchers can use them.

    Nekton scientists will coast through the Gully Marine Protected Area, a large underwater canyon near Nova Scotia, and will explore the swirling gyre of the Sargasso Sea.

    Alex Rogers, Oxford conservation biologist and Nekton chief scientist

    Alex Rogers, Oxford conservation biologist and Nekton chief scientist

    It is day 16 of the mission, and Alex Rogers, Nekton’s chief scientist and an Oxford conservation biologist, is diving in a twin submersible called Nemo. The plan is to plunge 850 feet at Tiger, a site off southeast Bermuda.

    “This place is called Tiger because of tiger sharks, so who knows, you might even see one of the ocean’s spectacular predators while you’re down there,” Rogers had said earlier that morning at a prep meeting aboard the Baseline Explorer, a 150-foot research vessel. Shipping containers littered the deck. Some contained diving supplies for the volunteers from Project Baseline, a global citizen science initiative of 10,000 underwater explorers. Other containers housed fully equipped labs.



    ScienceScope joined Nekton on this voyage to answer an important question: More than a third of the planet’s reefs are threatened by climate change, but can they adapt?

    The map, detailing coral loss on Great Barrier Reef, shows how mortality varies enormously from north to south. Map by ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

    The map, detailing coral loss on Great Barrier Reef, shows how mortality varies enormously from north to south.
    Map by ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

    The Great Barrier Reef raised this question early last year. The entire reef didn’t die despite what you may have read in a viral fake report in Outside Magazine. Yet in 2016, a 435-mile portion of the northernmost section of the Great Barrier Reef suffered bleaching — the largest event on record — and 67 percent of the coral in that area died. Bleaching events covered the central and southern reef in 1998 and 2002, meaning the majority of Great Barrier Reef’s 134,000 square miles has suffered massive bleaching in the last 20 years. If total death were to strike Great Barrier Reef — the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem — Australia’s economy would lose $5.7 billion.

    “People don’t realize the thing we’re trying to keep alive is the size of Italy,” Brett Lewis, a marine researcher at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, told me via phone. Lewis studies the mechanics of coral bleaching — how it happens step by step.

    Bleaching doesn’t always kill coral. It’s a survival tactic employed by zooxanthellate corals — species that sap nutrients from algae embedded in their polyps. When algae face sustained warming or other stress, their photosynthesis breaks down, and hazardous gases, also known as “reactive oxygen species,” spew from them like toxic waste.

    The coral respond by expelling the algae — and it can be violent! When Lewis and colleagues exposed Heliofungia actiniformis, a mushroom coral, to extended periods of heat in a lab tank, the critters responded by expanding and contracting like balloons during the algae eviction.

    “Imagine you or I just sitting there, and all of a sudden our tissue inflates to 340 percent of our current size,” Lewis said. “This expansion is very new. This is the first time that it’s been documented in coral bleaching.”

    Heliofungia actiniformis coral exposed to thermal stress

    However, it won’t be the last. Coral can recuperate from bleaching, once temperatures drop and algae populations recover. (The coral in Lewis’ experiment recovered and are alive today).

    But elevated sea temperatures caused by global warming mean algae and coral may have less time to recover between bleaching events. That’s why coral died in droves when El Nino hit the northern Great Barrier Reef in early 2016.

    Take a closer look, and a pattern emerges. The worst carnage tends to involve coral in shallow water, which is a trend seen across the globe. So far, one-fifth of the world’s shallow water reefs have perished, according to a report by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network. Rogers and others predict mass bleaching events, once decadal events, will happen once or twice a year for most shallow water coral by 2050.

    A dire prediction, unless of course, the coral pick up and leave.

    When temps go high, can coral go low?

    As Nemo and Nomad plunged deeper into the Atlantic, the blue deepened as seawater more readily absorbed the reds, oranges and yellows in the sunlight. Picture the shades between dead of night and predawn, and you’ll know the color.

    We had ventured into the mesophotic zone — a colder, more thermally stable region that might serve as a refuge for corals affected by bleaching.

    Located 131 to more than 500 feet underwater, this twilight zone escapes the warming waters and other anthropogenic threats like waste runoff, which tend to pool near the sea surface. Most mesophotic coral reefs are left over from 18,000 years ago on continental slopes, when sea level was 400 feet lower than today. Unlike surface corals, mesophotic species are a mixture of those dependent on algae and corals that feed on other sea creatures.

    Scientists record coral captured by divers in the Tiger region of Bermuda

    Scientists record coral captured by divers in the Tiger region of Bermuda

    All corals start as little larvae that get swept around by currents, before attaching in a single spot. So, scientists like Rogers are investigating reef connectivity — the extent to which shallow water reef species exist in the mesophotic zone too. Mesophotic reefs could function as migration stations for shallow water coral and fish during times of crisis, which is known as the deep water refugia hypothesis.

    Magee flicked on Nomad’s lights, revealing a garden of corals spread across Bermuda’s sharply sloped seabed. We saw oodles of butterfly fish and pink roughtongue bass swimming through twisted wire corals, gorgonian sea fans and hydrocorals — a type of irregular sea fan. Neon green moray eels stuck their necks from the seabed. Oh look! A slipper lobster!

    The submersibles are equipped with filming equipment, so the researchers can document the biodiversity. Each has a low-power laser that serves as an underwater ruler. By pulsing into the seafloor, the laser judges physical perspective so the team can measure the sizes of fish and corals.

    A five-foot-long dog shark whipped from behind a natural bridge, and then darted away. His departure raised a question: How does this survey grasp the habitat’s full diversity when so many creatures skitter off?

    The answer is environmental DNA. Rogers explained the concept, via radio, as Nemo cruised next to us at an 850-foot depth.

    “The idea is when there are animals and other organisms present in the environment, they release cells,” Rogers said. Skin cells, scales and poop gets left behind, with DNA packed inside. Imagine if you put your hand in a big glass of water, and a few cells fall off your hand. Scientists can take that water and sequence it. A set of long plastic bottles hang off the Nomad’s bow for this purpose.

    Later, the biosurvey data will be amassed and shared among Nekton’s research team. Gretchen Goodbody-Gringley, a reef ecologist at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, collaborates on the project. While Rogers and I coasted along the seafloor, Goodbody-Gringley and a team of Project Baseline divers conducted similar surveys closer to the surface.

    “Alex formerly worked in deep corals and has moved up to mesophotic, whereas I started in shallows and have moved down to mesophotic,” Goodbody-Gringley said. “So in a sense, we’re converging.”

    The divers double-hosed tanks look like a Jacques Cousteau invention, but the equipment is actually a state-of-the-art rebreather system that recycles the air that they exhale. It permits extra long dives, which are helped by fan-powered scooters.

    Divers aboard the Baseline Explorer.

    Divers aboard the Baseline Explorer.

    “If we were to do only the 300-foot transects and come straight up, we would have to decompress for about three hours,” Todd Kincaid, Project Baseline director, said later on the ship’s deck. But with the scooter, the divers can travel at 1.5 miles per hour and follow the gentle slope of the sea floor, as they collect observations at a 300-, 200-, 100- and 50-feet-depth. The process take close to three hours, so they can decompress while they work.

    Together, the environmental DNA sequencing and visual surveys offer a broad picture of Bermuda’s biodiversity and the connectivity between shallow and mesophotic habitats.

    Return to reality

    So, that’s it? Mesophotic corals to the rescue! Not so fast.

    “We still don’t really know where all of these reefs are, what lives there, and how these communities function,” said Daniel Holstein, a coral reef ecologist at Duke Marine Lab who is unaffiliated with Nekton.

    Holstein supports the so-called “deep reef refugia” hypothesis. His research has found deeper corals produce more eggs per polyp relative to shallow-water coral.

    Gretchen Goodbody-Gringley, a reef ecologist at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences

    Gretchen Goodbody-Gringley, a reef ecologist at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences. Photo by BIOS and Ocean Support Foundation

    Yet in some areas, deep and shallow corals aren’t connected by ocean currents, so larvae migration might be naturally impossible. Researchers are thinking about rearing certain types of coral in a lab and the reintroducing them into mesophotic zones. But first they need to know where species can already survive. Yet it’s clear some shallow water species — elegant, lanky elkhorns — can’t make the migration, Holstein said. They rely too heavily on algae and sunlight.

    Such is the case in the Caribbean, said University of the Virgin Islands coral reef ecologist Tyler Smith. A 2005 bleaching event and disease have imperiled the diversity of surface-hugging corals. Elkhorn and staghorn corals have declined precipitously, Smith said.

    His team reported last year that mesophotic reefs near the Virgin Islands are also susceptible to bleaching. Due to the shape of the seabed, ocean currents can force warm surface water downward, putting mesophotic corals at risk during heat waves. The observation suggests that the deep reef refugia hypothesis may only apply on a location by location basis. Prior observations in the eastern Pacific near Panama found mesophotic fire corals had repopulated shallow regions after multiple El Nino events devastated populations. Fire corals near Panama, for instance, were wiped out for 2,500 years at one point and then returned.

    Smith feels the hypothesis needs an edit. It isn’t that cold and deep versus warm and shallow dictate coral survival. It’s the change relative to the regular temperature.

    “What you really need to have are environments that stay consistently cool relative to their average conditions,” Smith said. So if coral have already adapted to repeated temperature fluctuations in a particular area, then those reefs may persist through future climate change. Hence why Goodbody-Gringley, Rogers, Nekton and leagues of ecologists are scurrying around the globe in an attempt to identify which coral ecosystems are most vulnerable.

    As Nemo and Nomad depart the seafloor, the coral forests fade into the background, but the scientists’ concerns remain. The submersibles race our air bubbles to the surface. I bid farewell to the sea cucumbers and slipper lobsters. Our sub’s dome breaches. Reality returns.

    The post Coral bleaching is killing reefs. Is the answer a great migration? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a press conference at Trump Tower in Manhattan. Photo by Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

    President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a press conference at Trump Tower in Manhattan. Photo by Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — It was a bombshell story, emerging on the eve of Donald Trump’s first news conference as president-elect: U.S. intelligence officials had presented Trump with unsubstantiated claims that Russia had amassed compromising personal and financial allegations about him.

    The purported Russian efforts were described in a newly released and uncorroborated dossier produced in August. But they had circulated more widely in Washington in October — following early reports and opaque warnings from elected officials that something was afoot involving the Kremlin and Trump.

    In October, Mother Jones magazine described how a former Western spy — assigned to look into Trump’s Russian ties for a private American firm — had presented his findings to the FBI in August. Those findings, the magazine said, were produced for political opposition research and said that Russian intelligence had compromised Trump during his visits to Moscow — information that, if true, could be used to blackmail him or undermine his presidency.

    The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday identified the dossier’s author as Christopher Steele, a director of London-based Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd., whom the Journal said declined repeated requests for interviews through an intermediary. Another Orbis director told the Journal he wouldn’t “confirm or deny” that Orbis had produced the report.

    Christopher Burrows, co-director of Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd. declined comment when questioned by ITN. “.. I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to make any comments at the moment on what happened, whether Orbis has been involved or not, and we’ll review that situation in the next couple of days,” he told ITN.

    There was no listed number for Steele’s address in Runfold, outside Farnham, Surrey, about 35 miles southwest London.

    A police car drives past an address which has been linked by local media to former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who has been named as the author of an intelligence dossier on President-elect Donald Trump, in Wokingham, Britain. Photo by Peter Nicholls/Reuters

    A police car drives past an address which has been linked by local media to former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who has been named as the author of an intelligence dossier on President-elect Donald Trump, in Wokingham, Britain. Photo by Peter Nicholls/Reuters

    Neighbor Mike Hopper said Steele had lived there for about 18 months with his wife and four children. Hopper is looking after the family’s cats.

    “He did not say where he was going or when he was coming back,” he said.

    CNN reported Tuesday night that Trump had been briefed in a classified setting about a summary of the investigator’s findings.

    Meanwhile, BuzzFeed published the 35-page dossier Tuesday night. The website defended publishing the report because it said Americans “can make up their own minds about allegations about the president-elect.” Other news outlets withheld publishing most details about the unverified claims because they couldn’t confirm them.

    Shortly after reports were published late Tuesday about the dossier, Trump tweeted: “FAKE NEWS – A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!” The president-elect said at a combative news conference Wednesday that the allegations were “phony stuff” leaked by “sick people.”

    Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in a statement later that he had spoken with Trump Wednesday evening and told him the intelligence community “has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable.” Clapper also said he does not believe that the leaks came from inside the intelligence community.

    Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on "Worldwide threats to America and our allies" in D.C. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on “Worldwide threats to America and our allies” in D.C. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    Trump hasn’t said whether he believes Clapper’s claim on the source of the leaks. He tweeted Thursday: “James Clapper called me yesterday to denounce the false and fictitious report that was illegally circulated. Made up, phony facts. Too bad!”

    The Kremlin, meantime, said that Russia and the United States can overcome the current diplomatic strain based on mutual respect once Trump takes office.

    President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters Thursday that “Moscow hopes that our presidents will get along well.” He added that while Moscow and Washington can’t agree on everything, they can normalize their strained ties if they show “mutual respect.”

    Peskov made the statement while commenting on Trump’s news conference Wednesday, during which he voiced hope of getting along with Putin. Peskov welcomed Trump’s readiness to conduct a dialogue with Russia, adding that “it will help us find a way from many difficult situations.”

    The dossier contains unproven information about close coordination between Trump’s inner circle and Russians about hacking into Democratic accounts as well as unproven claims about unusual sexual activities by Trump among other suggestions attributed to anonymous sources. The Associated Press has not authenticated any of the claims.

    [Watch Video]

    On Tuesday evening, CNN reported unsubstantiated claims that Russian intelligence compiled a dossier on the president-elect during his visits to Moscow; BuzzFeed later published 35 pages of content from the alleged dossier. But Mr. Trump dismissed the developments as “fake news.” Judy Woodruff speaks with former NSA lawyer Susan Hennessey and former CIA officer John Sipher for analysis.

    In October, then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid wrote to the FBI asking it to publicly disclose what it knew about any Trump campaign ties to Russia.

    “It has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisers, and the Russian government — a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Trump praises at every opportunity. The public has a right to know this information,” Reid wrote on Oct. 30.

    He said he learned of the information from FBI Director James Comey and from other top U.S. national security officials. It wasn’t immediately clear how much Reid knew specifically of the compromising information versus Russian hacking activity in general.

    A few weeks later, in mid-November, Sen. John McCain became aware of the allegations but decided it was impossible to verify them without a proper investigation, according to a report Wednesday by The Guardian. The newspaper reported McCain was reluctant to get involved because it could be seen as payback for insults Trump made about the Arizona Republican during the campaign.

    The summary of the dossier allegations was appended to a classified assessment of Russia’s suspected attempts to meddle in the U.S. presidential election. Trump and President Barack Obama were briefed on the intelligence community’s findings last week.

    Associated Press writers Raphael Satter in London and Laurie Kellman and Deb Riechmann in Washington contributed to this report.

    WATCH: How credible are reports that Russia has compromising information about Trump?

    The post Newly leaked dossier on Trump circulated in DC for months appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A Russian serviceman directs Russian tanks after their arrival in Crimea in the settlement of Gvardeiskoye near the Crimean city of Simferopol March 31, 2014. Russia is withdrawing a motorized infantry battalion from a region near Ukraine's eastern border, the Russian Defence Ministry was quoted as saying by state news agencies on Monday. The United States says progress on resolving the East-West stand-off over Ukraine depends on Russia pulling back troops massed on the border. It was not clear whether other troops would pull back or had already withdrawn. REUTERS/Stringer (UKRAINE - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY) - RTR3JCUM

    A Russian serviceman directs Russian tanks after their arrival in Crimea in 2014. Whereas Trump as a candidate played down Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, arguing the population there was pro-Russian anyway, Tillerson said the annexation was illegal and amounted to “a taking of territory that was not theirs.” Photo by REUTERS/Stringer

    WASHINGTON — Rex Tillerson’s foreign policy isn’t sounding much like Donald Trump’s.

    At his confirmation hearing Wednesday, the former Exxon Mobil CEO selected by Trump for secretary of state called Russia a “danger” and vowed to protect America’s European allies. He rejected the idea of an immigration ban on Muslims. He treaded softly on the human rights records of key U.S. partners like Saudi Arabia.

    In the words of Sen. Bob Corker, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s GOP chairman, Tillerson “demonstrated that he’s very much in the mainstream of foreign policy thinking.” But doing so forced Tillerson to break with several of the president-elect’s most iconoclastic statements on diplomacy and international security.

    WATCH: Rex Tillerson confirmation hearing

    Again and again, Tillerson hewed more closely to long-standing, bipartisan positions on America’s role in the world, and who are its friends and foes.

    That may help Tillerson win over senators who’ve expressed wariness about his extensive relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But it could leave him putting a Trump foreign policy in place that looks little like the vision he outlined Wednesday.

    A look at where Tillerson’s views didn’t quite match those of his would-be boss:


    Tillerson adopted a tough tone toward Moscow, apparently attempting to rebut the perception that he’s too close to Putin.

    The Russian leader previously awarded Tillerson his country’s “Order of Friendship” following Exxon’s deals with Russia’s oil industry. But on Wednesday, Tillerson called Putin’s Russia a threat to the United States.

    Whereas Trump as a candidate played down Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, arguing the population there was pro-Russian anyway, Tillerson said the annexation was illegal and amounted to “a taking of territory that was not theirs.”

    Whereas Trump’s campaign team last summer softened language in the GOP platform calling for arming Ukraine, Tillerson said he would have recommended providing U.S. and allied defensive weapons, plus aerial surveillance, so the Ukrainians could protect their Russian border.

    “The taking of Crimea was an act of force,” Tillerson said. When Russia flexes its muscles, he said the U.S. must mount “a proportional show of force.”

    Still, the Kremlin said Thursday the former Cold War foes can overcome their differences once Trump takes office.

    Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said he hopes the two presidents will get along and they can normalize ties if they show “mutual respect.”


    Before Wednesday, Trump spent weeks ridiculing the U.S. intelligence agencies’ accusations that Russia hacked and leaked emails, spread “fake news” and took other actions to interfere with the U.S. election.

    Tillerson wasted no time in accepting the findings. He even went further than Trump, conceding it’s a “fair assumption” the hacking couldn’t have taken place without Putin’s consent

    Not Trump, who has repeatedly praised Putin’s leadership. While he said at a news conference Wednesday that “I think it was Russia,” Trump sidestepped the question of Putin’s responsibility. Instead, he argued, “If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess what, folks? That’s called an asset, not a liability.”


    During the campaign, Trump called for a temporary ban on Muslims immigrating to the U.S. The proposal then evolved into halting immigration from countries linked to terrorism. Trump later suggested he was reconsidering the Muslim ban.

    “I do not support a blanket type rejection of any particular group of people,” Tillerson said categorically at his hearing. He said the U.S. should “support those Muslim voices” that reject extremism and insisted Americans shouldn’t be scared of Muslims.


    Trump started his presidential bid by taking aim south of the border, accusing Mexico of sending “rapists” and criminals with drugs into the U.S.

    Asked about those sentiments, Tillerson said he would “never characterize an entire population with any single term at all.”

    Mexico and other Latin American nations are anxious about Trump’s campaign pledges to build a border wall and deport millions of immigrants illegally in the U.S.

    Tillerson, by contrast, said he would engage closely with Mexico.

    “Mexico is a long-standing neighbor and friend of this country,” he said.


    Trump sent chills through much of Europe when he suggested the U.S. might not defend its NATO allies if they came under attack, unless they’d contributed enough to the alliance’s collective defense costs.

    He later qualified his comments, while insisting NATO’s future depended on members paying their fair share.

    Tillerson offered ironclad support for NATO’s Article 5, which obligates the allies to treat an attack on one as an attack on all. If a NATO member is invaded, the oil man said, the U.S. would join other members in coming to its defense.

    “The Article 5 commitment is inviolable, and the U.S. is going to stand behind that commitment,” Tillerson said.


    Trump used Saudi Arabia’s shoddy human rights record as a campaign cudgel against Hillary Clinton, pointedly asking why she wouldn’t “give back the money” the kingdom gave her family foundation.

    He called out Saudi Arabia and other Mideast countries for violence against gays and women, and other human rights violations.

    Tillerson played it more conservatively with a country at the heart of the American security strategy for the Middle East.

    Saudi Arabia doesn’t share American values, he said.

    But Tillerson said he needed “greater information” before declaring Saudi Arabia a human rights violator.

    It was an answer that wasn’t well received by all the senators present. But it was, to use a turn of phrase, diplomatic.

    AP writers Matthew Lee and Bradley Klapper contributed to this report.

    Editor’s Note: Rex Tillerson’s last name was misspelled in the headline of an earlier version of this story.


    AP fact check: Tillerson claim at odds with Exxon Mobil lobbying

    A guide to this week’s confirmation hearings: Jeff Sessions, Rex Tillerson and more


    The post Where Tillerson, pick for top diplomat, differs from Trump on issues appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A car hauler transports new Dodge Ram pickup trucks from the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Warren Truck Assembly plant in Warren, Michigan October 7, 2015. The United Auto Workers (UAW) has notified Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV of its intention to have workers walk off the job as early as late Wednesday night, the company said on Tuesday. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook - RTS3GI5

    A car hauler transports new Dodge Ram pickup trucks from the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Warren Truck Assembly plant in Warren, Michigan. Photo by REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

    WASHINGTON — The U.S. government is accusing Fiat Chrysler of failing to disclose software in some of its pickups and SUVs with diesel engines that allows them to emit more pollution than allowed under the Clean Air Act.

    The Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday it had issued a “notice of violation” to the company that covers about 104,000 vehicles including the 2014 through 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram pickups, all with 3-liter diesel engines. The California Air Resources Board took similar action.

    “Failing to disclose software that affects emissions in a vehicle’s engine is a serious violation of the law, which can result in harmful pollution in the air we breathe,” said Cynthia Giles, EPA assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance.

    READ MORE: Facing charges, Volkswagen agrees to pay $4.3 billion in emissions cheating scandal

    Fiat Chrysler quickly issued a statement denying any wrongdoing.

    EPA said it will continue to investigate the “nature and impact” of the eight software functions identified through its testing. Regulators were not yet defining the software as so-called “defeat devices” intended to cheat on government emissions tests. However, the agency said that numerous discussions with Fiat Chrysler over the last year had not produced any suitable explanation for why the company had failed to disclose the software, which regulators said caused the vehicles to emit less pollution during testing than during regular driving.

    EPA officials said Fiat Chrysler may be liable for civil penalties for the alleged violations of the Clean Air Act. The EPA is investigating whether the auxiliary emission control devices constitute “defeat devices,” which are illegal because they turn off pollution controls.

    “This is a clear and serious violation of the Clean Air Act,” Giles said. “When companies break the law, Americans depend on EPA to step in and enforce.”

    Fiat Chrysler said in a statement that its emissions control systems “meet the applicable requirements.”

    The company said it was disappointed with the EPA’s action and intends to work with the incoming Trump administration to present its case. Fiat Chrysler said it spent months giving information to the EPA to explain its emissions technology and proposed a number of actions including software changes to address the agency’s concerns.

    Fiat Chrysler’s shares fell more than 16 percent after the news was announced to $9.29.

    The announcement comes one day after Fiat rival Volkswagen pleaded guilty in federal court to criminal charges related to widespread cheating involving emissions tests with its “Clean Diesel” line of vehicles. Six high-ranking VW executives have been charged in the scandal. VW agreed to pay a record $4.3 billion penalty for cheating on emissions tests.

    Krisher reported from Detroit. Associated Press writer Dee-Ann Durbin also contributed from Detroit.

    The post EPA says Fiat Chrysler didn’t disclose emissions software appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A small group of demonstrators stand outside of a HIlton Hotel prior to a "Defund Obamacare Tour" rally in Indianapolis, on Aug. 26, 2013. Photo by Nate Chute/Reuters

    A small group of demonstrators stand outside of a HIlton Hotel prior to a “Defund Obamacare Tour” rally in Indianapolis, on Aug. 26, 2013. Photo by Nate Chute/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Congress is poised to complete its initial step toward dismantling President Barack Obama’s health care law, as Republicans divided over how to replace it face pressure from Donald Trump for quick action.

    “We have a responsibility to step in and provide relief from this failing law,” Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters Thursday. “And we have to do it all at the same time so that everybody sees what we’re trying to do.”

    But at the same time, Ryan said there were no “hard deadlines” for a GOP replacement in tandem with the repeal effort, underscoring the difficulty for Congress despite the president-elect’s call to both repeal the law and replace it with legislation to “get health care taken care of in this country.”

    That action will be almost impossible to fulfill in the complicated web of Congress, where GOP leaders must navigate complex Senate rules, united Democratic opposition and substantive policy disagreements among Republicans.

    By a near party-line 51-48 vote early Thursday, the GOP-run Senate approved a budget that eases the way for action on subsequent repeal legislation as early as next month. The Republican-controlled House planned to complete the budget on Friday, despite misgivings by some GOP lawmakers.

    Republicans are not close to agreement among themselves on what any replacement would look like.

    The 2010 law extended health insurance to some 20 million Americans, prevented insurers from denying coverage for existing conditions and steered billions of dollars to states for the Medicaid health program for the poor. Republicans fought the effort tooth and nail, and voter opposition to the law helped carry the GOP to impressive victories in 2010, 2014 and last year.

    Thursday’s Senate procedural vote will set up special budget rules allowing the repeal vote to take place with a simple majority in the 100-member Senate, instead of the 60 votes required to move most legislation.

    That means Republicans, who control 52 seats, can push through repeal legislation without Democratic cooperation. They’re also discussing whether there are some elements of a replacement bill that could get through at the same time with a simple majority. But for many elements of a new health care law, Republicans are likely to need 60 votes and Democratic support, and at this point the two parties aren’t even talking.

    Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, unhappy that the measure endorsed huge budget deficits, was the sole Republican to vote against it.

    Increasing numbers of Republicans have expressed anxiety over obliterating the law without a replacement to show voters.

    Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she wants at least to see “a detailed framework” of a GOP alternative health care plan before voting on repeal. She said Republicans would risk “people falling through the cracks or causing turmoil in insurance markets” if lawmakers voided Obama’s statute without a replacement in hand.

    Collins was among a handful of Republicans to occasionally break ranks to support some Democratic amendments aimed at supporting such things as rural hospitals and a mandate to cover patients with existing medical conditions. They were all shot down by majority Republicans anyway.

    Ryan and other GOP leaders appeared confident that the measure would easily clear the House. In the House, both conservatives and moderates wanted to get more of a guarantee that the they would have a greater sense of what a GOP substitute would look like — or putting some elements of the replacement measure in the repeal bill.

    “We need to be voting for a replacement plan at the same time that we vote for repeal,” said Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., an influential conservative.

    Some more moderate House Republicans were unhappy, too, including Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-N.J., a leader of centrists in the House Tuesday Group. He said he would oppose the budget because there was too little information about the replacement, including whether people receiving expanded Medicaid coverage or health care subsidies under the existing law would be protected.

    “We’re loading a gun here,” MacArthur said. “I want to know where it’s pointed before we start the process.”

    READ MORE: Analysis: GOP united on repealing Obamacare, but disagree on how to replace it

    The post Congress to take first step toward dismantling Obamacare appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The seal of the Department of Justice. Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images

    The seal of the Department of Justice. Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The Justice Department inspector general says he will investigate the actions of the Justice Department and FBI in the months leading up to the 2016 election, including whether department policies were followed by FBI Director James Comey.

    Democrats have blamed Comey’s handling of an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, and his late-October release of a letter about the case, as a reason for her loss to Republican Donald Trump.

    Inspector General Michael Horowitz says the investigation will look at whether department or FBI policies were followed in relation to Comey’s actions in the case, whether the FBI deputy director should have been recused from the investigation, and allegations that department officials improperly disclosed nonpublic information to the Clinton campaign.

    There should be an embedded item here. Please visit the original post to view it.

    WATCH: What’s behind Comey’s unprecedented reveal to Congress about Clinton probe?

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    Shepard Fairey / ObeyGiant.com via Amplifier Foundation

    Poster by Shepard Fairey / ObeyGiant.com via Amplifier Foundation

    Eight years ago, a poster designed by Shepard Fairey became the iconic image of the 2008 presidential campaign. The “HOPE” poster, featuring an image of Barack Obama, began with a print run of just 350, and spread after it was distributed on the street, at rallies and online. Now, the graphic artist, muralist, illustrator and activist is back with another street art campaign called “We the People” for President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration. But this time, the new president’s face won’t be on it.

    Shepard has created three portraits for the campaign; two other artists, Colombian American muralist Jessica Sabogal and and Chicano graphic artist Ernesto Yerena, have each made one more. Together, they hope the faces of “We the People” — standing in for traditionally marginalized groups or those specifically targeted during Trump’s presidential campaign — will flood Washington, D.C., on Inauguration Day.

    Fairey is collaborating with the Amplifier Foundation, a nonprofit that works to amplify grassroots movements and which commissioned the project. After learning that large-sized signs were prohibited at Inauguration, Amplifier came up with a hack to distribute the posters. Their plan: to buy full-page ads in the Washington Post on January 20th that feature the “We the People” images, which can be torn out and carried as placards, or hung and posted around town. The posters will also be distributed at metro stops, from moving vans and other drop spots on Inauguration Day, as well as posted online for free download. A Kickstarter campaign for “We the People” has raised more than $148,000 since it was launched Tuesday night. 

    Fairey talked with PBS NewsHour by phone Wednesday about the “We the People” campaign. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

    Shepard Fairey / Shepard Fairey / Shepard Fairey / Ernesto Yerena / Jessica Sabogal / Amplifier Foundation

    “We the People” posters by Shepard Fairey, Ernesto Yerena and Jessica Sabogal / Amplifier Foundation

    During the primary elections, Fairey supported Bernie Sanders for president. Later, he supported Hillary Clinton, but said he didn’t find her inspiring enough to draw. After Trump was elected, Fairey wrote on his website that the country had taken “a dark turn” in rewarding incivility. Now, there’s “We the People.” How did the campaign come to be?

    SHEPARD FAIREY: Aaron Huey [a well-known photojournalist] and I have worked on projects before. Aaron has done a number of images around Native American rights. But he’s [a photographer who’s] not just making cool imagery. He’s heavily invested in a meaningful way. And then he started this new foundation called Amplifier. We were already collaborating, but then when Trump was elected, which neither of us expected to happen, we realized a lot of people are going to be vulnerable. There is a lot of division right now. Trump is not a healer. Art, on the other hand, is healing and inclusive, whether topically it celebrates humanity, or whether it’s just compelling visuals to make a human connection.

    And so we thought it was the right time to make a campaign that’s about diversity and inclusion, about people seeing the common bonds we have, and our connections as human beings. The idea was to take back a lot of this patriotic language in a way that we see is positive and progressive, and not let it be hijacked by people who want to say that the American flag or American concepts only represent one narrow way of thinking.

    After the Obama HOPE poster went viral, Shepard was sued by the Associated Press for using one of their freelance photographer’s images of the president without permission. Ultimately, they settled out of court, and Fairey also had to pay a hefty fine. For “We the People,” Fairey collaborated directly with photographers.

    SHEPARD FAIREY: All the subjects [in “We the People”] were photographed by people who relate to them somehow. The Muslim woman was shot by a Muslim photographer, the Latina woman shot by Latino photographer, and the African-American kid shot by a French African-American woman photographer. We realized that this has got to be a diverse coalition of artists for us to do this, and that while it’s good for us to be allies, this campaign really has to be authentically diverse.

    “When the status quo is fearful and scapegoating, then the most punk rock you can be is finding common ground with your fellow human beings.”

    We’re getting great traction with the Kickstarter already, and we want to fund an ongoing and expanding range of creative projects, with the next wave of people from all different communities. We want to allow people to express all their social/political views around a number of issues — LGBT rights, women’s rights — because a number of those things are going to be under attack under Trump.

    In the original Obama poster, Fairey printed the words “hope” “change” and “progress” under Obama’s photo — but it was the word “hope” that ultimately took off. For “We the People,” he’s chosen the phrases “defend dignity” “greater than fear” and “protect each other.”

    SHEPARD FAIREY: We came to a conclusion as a group that in the language [for these posters] we want to say, “We reject fear-mongering and exclusion.” But we also wanted to do it in a way that doesn’t leave the door open for the Fox News type to say, “This is reverse racism”….

    It’s hard to encapsulate the complexity of what we’re facing, going into this Trump presidency, in three images. But we chose three groups that are vulnerable. In the history of the U.S., there are a lot of people who fled persecution from Europe on the basis of religious identities. The idea of championing the ideals of our forefathers and then limiting the movement of Muslims — it’s so confounding that this is not riling more people up. And so it’s really time do some [work] that I think is a counterargument to that, and that’s not based on division but based on inclusion. We’ve seen where division has got us.

    Shepard Fairey / Obey Giant via Amplifier Foundation

    Poster by Shepard Fairey / ObeyGiant.com via Amplifier Foundation

    Just before the election this past November, Fairey created a poster called “Demagogue,” in collaboration with the Scottish rock band Franz Ferdinand, who released a song by the same name. The poster portrayed Trump, mouth open, in red and black imagery that Fairey said was meant to be Orwellian.

    SHEPARD FAIREY: I did the “Demagogue” poster a month and a half before the election. I think [the book] “1984” is a really important work, and presenting Trump as a form of Big Brother, I think was antagonistic but not over the top. At this point, though, we have Trump, so what’s the antidote? The antidote is not attacking Trump more.

    During [the tenure of President George W.] Bush, I attacked Bush, and I attacked the war on Iraq. I’ve learned from that. Back then, I got a pat on the back from my peers who already agreed with me for that work, but as for changing people’s minds, I’m not really sure we did that. When people get defensive, I think that really limits their ability to change their mind. So my solutions in this campaign are different.

    While the HOPE poster was made in support of Obama, and “We the People” in protest of Trump, Fairey says both have a hopeful message.

    SHEPARD FAIREY: The Obama poster was very sincere. I come from this rebellious subculture, where sincerity and earnestness are not always really welcome. I come from punk rock. But sometimes, [sincerity and earnestness] means you are going against the grain. When the status quo is fearful and scapegoating, then the most punk rock you can be is finding common ground with your fellow human beings.

    “As much as I appreciate social media and the way it democratizes things….When people get out there and they hold something, it’s different.”

    I’m also at this point in my life where I’m a really big believer in civility. There’s nothing wrong with disruption that’s ethically sound and well thought-out. Going to a town hall meeting and being uncivil is not something to be proud of.

    The Clash are big role models of mine, and Rage Against the Machine. Even though these guys are angry, all their arguments are grounded in humanitarianism.… But sometimes I’m cautious to make sure that my style of my delivery doesn’t eclipse the content of my delivery.

    I’m sort of doing this inside-outside strategy. Sometimes I’m very happy to do things pushing the envelope as an outsider. Other times it’s more constructive to infiltrate and make change within their own machinery and language, with subversive intent. Like in “We the People.”

    After the inauguration, “We the People” will also send the five images to the new president as postcards. Aaron Huey said it was a last-minute addition to the campaign to “get the art in front of the people who need to see it most.” But Fairey hopes that by that time, the images will already have been distributed widely.

    SHEPARD FAIREY: Aaron [Huey] was looking at my existing model of giving away free prints and free digital downloads. [“We the People” is] an evolution of that, but a little more ambitious, with the Washington Post ad.

    As much as I appreciate social media and the way it democratizes things, with the physical side, there’s an impact that’s longer-lasting and more meaningful, which is why I continue to do things on the street, and make physical prints. When people get out there and they hold something, it’s different. The kind of bonds you form with other people are more meaningful, when there are actual bodies in close proximity and words being exchanged and molecules colliding.

    Shepard Fairey / ObeyGiant.com via Amplifier Foundation

    Poster by Shepard Fairey / ObeyGiant.com via Amplifier Foundation

    The post Why Shepard Fairey’s inauguration protest posters won’t have Trump on them appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    President Barack Obama is expected to pay tribute to Vice President Joe Biden at the White House. PBS NewsHour will live stream the event at 3 p.m. ET.

    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is awarding Vice President Joe Biden the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

    A teary-eyed Biden accepted the medal, the highest civilian honor, at a ceremony at the White House Thursday.

    Obama says he is bestowing the honor on Biden for “faith in your fellow Americans, for your love of country and a lifetime of service that will endure through the generations.”

    The post WATCH LIVE: Obama awards VP Joe Biden the Presidential Medal of Freedom. appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Vice President-elect Mike Pence (L) is seen in the background as U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a press conference in Trump Tower, Manhattan, New York, U.S., January 11, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton - RTX2YIQQ

    Jim Stone, author of “Five Easy Theses,” discusses some directional shifts to hope for and some to fear in five selected policy areas. Photo by Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

    Editor’s Note: In the lead up to Election Day, we teamed up with Jim Stone, author of “Five Easy Theses” to test your knowledge of America’s economic challenges in our post “Are you an informed voter? A quiz.” With Donald Trump’s inauguration now a week away, we asked Stone to discuss how Trump could tackle America’s largest economic issues.

    — Kristen Doerer, Making Sen$e Editor

    My recent book, “Five Easy Theses,” offered thoughts about logical resolutions to five thorny public policy issues. When I wrote it, though, I was guessing that the next president would be a traditionally mainstream Republican or a Democrat. Although I called attention to angry voters, I underestimated their impact, especially in the Rust Belt.

    We should applaud the new administration if it launches a major infrastructure investment program.

    It is clear now that the majority of non-coastal voters so deeply wanted a change agent that they were willing to accept one with an astonishingly apolitical personality and a highly abstract policy offering. Given the unusual combination of an apparently fearless chief executive and an ideologically aligned Cabinet, House and Senate, major change is now a possibility for the first time in many years. Whether we will like the changes depends on our preferences as well as unforeseeable future context, but I’d like to lay out, in my five selected policy areas, some directional shifts to hope for and some to fear.

    Fiscal balance

    In my first chapter, I urged limiting deficit expansion to meeting the needs of short-term stimulus and investments for which our offspring would thank us. We should applaud the new administration if it launches a major infrastructure investment program. The next generation needs the improvement in our schools, roads, bridges and water facilities. Deep concern over deficit growth will be called for though if taxes are cut dramatically while expanding spending in this manner. I also suggested shoring up Social Security, even if that requires raising both the income cap and the retirement age. We should unite behind a responsible long-term solution for Social Security, and neither party should use the issue for shameless demagoguery. But we should fear Social Security privatization that would leave us to bail out the poorest, the sick, the unlucky or even the foolish. A civilized nation can’t let any of them starve on the streets.


    From 2003 to 2013, more than 100 percent of all wealth created went to the upper 10 percent of earners … We should be dead set against enacting any tax cuts that increase disparities.

    This is the big one for the angry voters – even those who fail to see the connection. Other than during the Great Recession, our economy has actually done reasonably well in recent decades. The problem is not that the U.S. prosperity has faded, but that the new wealth has been sequestered by a select few. Believe it or not, from 2003 to 2013, more than 100 percent of all wealth created went to the upper 10 percent of earners. (How does that work? The bottom 90 percent actually lost wealth.) We should be dead set against enacting any tax cuts that increase disparities. Instead, we should support meaningful job creation programs and an end to personal and corporate tax gimmickry.


    Here we can hope for a serious new commitment to vocational education, conducted in partnership with businesses that have actual jobs to offer. We can also cheer if the most is made of the charter school opportunity, using these schools to benefit not only participating students but to shine a beacon on best practices that can be adopted by district-operated schools. We should heartily resist going too far, though, and eviscerating the public education system or channeling money to religious schools.

    Health care

    We should be fearful if we retreat from universality of coverage. The savings in doing so would be largely false and the pain unnecessary.

    It will be a praiseworthy accomplishment if the Trump administration can honor the candidate’s promise to lower drug prices by permitting properly vetted competition from overseas. We should be similarly approving if malpractice tort reform is enacted and it produces reductions in unnecessary testing and other aspects of defensive medicine. Greater applause still can be earned if rationality is introduced into end-of-life care — not though the bugaboo of “death panels” but by asking Americans while still healthy to specify how much extreme intervention they want at the end — and honoring their wishes. We should be fearful if we retreat from universality of coverage. The savings in doing so would be largely false and the pain unnecessary.

    Financial reform

    Finally, I suggested a new round of financial sector reform rooted in more disclosure and less leverage. If Dodd-Frank is to be diluted, as seems likely, let us hope that any relief from operational restrictions is in trade for compensating improvements in regulatory philosophy writ large. It would be a huge boon if bank capital requirements were raised, all derivative positions had to be backed with suitable reserves, and hedge funds were governed under the same disclosure rules as mutual funds. Financial regulation can be less specific and more effective at the same time … and we can greatly lessen the risk of another crash. It is clear already that finance will be well represented among the policymakers. We should pray that this brings a “takes one to catch one” sophistication rather than foxes in the hen house.

    Our fate on all of these matters can go either way from here. Pivotal moments in history impose a heightened duty on all of us to stay informed and participate actively. Like the man said, this could be huge!

    The post Column: Here’s how Trump could tackle America’s largest economic issues appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    US President Barack Obama shakes hands with workers as they perform work on an engine during a tour of the Daimler Detroit Diesel Plant in Redford, Michigan, December 10, 2012, prior to speaking on the economy and fiscal cliff negotiations. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

    President Barack Obama shakes hands with workers as they perform work on an engine during a tour of the Daimler Detroit Diesel Plant in Redford, Michigan, on Dec. 10, 2012. Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

    President Obama was in office for less than a month when the February 2009 jobs report reported some brutal news: The U.S. economy had lost a whopping 598,000 jobs and the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent.

    Officially, the Great Recession began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. At its depths, the unemployment rate hit 10 percent.

    Fast forward, and today, the unemployment rate is 4.7 percent. In December, the U.S. economy added 156,000 jobs, and our Solman Scale U7, a comprehensive measure of unemployment and underemployment, hit a low of 11.3 percent

    Economics correspondent Paul Solman sat down with four economists to discuss President Obama’s economic legacy. For more, tune in to tonight’s Making Sen$e report, which airs every Thursday on the PBS NewsHour. Here’s a sneak peak at what Glenn Hubbard, Cecilia Rouse, Alan Krueger and Darrick Hamilton have to say:

    Glenn Hubbard

    Former chairman of President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers

    “When President Obama took office, the nation was in an economic crisis that it hadn’t seen since the Great Depression. And the administration did try, in some ways that worked, other ways I think worked less well, to address that crisis. Over time, I think the record is much more mixed with a continued highly regulatory approach that I think has slowed U.S. economic growth. So I think at the beginning there was a lot of effort, although maybe some misplaced, and over time, it was much more checkered.”

    Cecilia Rouse

    Member of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers

    “What President Obama did was he rescued an economy that was in free fall. And I think he saved us from a Great Depression. Obviously, we would love for economic growth to have been more robust in the years since, but I think it has been a success! We’ve seen continued growth, and I think many of the headwinds on growth were there before and are not just due to Obama’s policies. So for example, productivity growth, which is key to economic growth, was starting to slow down in 2005, which is well before Obama took office. So I actually think the record is very good and that we’ll look back and say it was largely a success.”

    Alan Krueger

    Former Chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers

    “President Obama came to office with the economy collapsing. We were losing 800,000 jobs a month. Within six months, because of the actions of the administration, the Congress and the Fed, the recession came to an end, and we started a modest recovery. Since job growth started in early 2010, we’ve added over 15 million jobs. That’s considerably more than we saw in the last recovery. That’s in spite of the fact that many of the tools that President Obama requested to help strengthen the recovery, like investing more in infrastructure or raising the minimum wage, Congress refused to act on. So I think history will look back at this time and say that the president did a remarkable job in the midst of great difficulty for the economy.”

    Darrick Hamilton

    President of the National Economic Association

    “I’d say it was a missed opportunity. He certainly faced a catastrophe when he came into office, but nothing fundamentally changed the trajectory towards inequality. I think we had an opportunity to come up with a different structure, so that we could build more inclusive economies with really good jobs for the lot of all Americans. We still have a scenario where the unemployment rate for black Americans is double that of white Americans. If we characterize an economy as being in a catastrophe with unemployment rates greater than 8 percent, well then, the black unemployment rate is still above 8 percent. So frankly, black Americans are still in a Great Depression or a Great Recession, at the very least.”

    The post 4 economists evaluate Obama’s economic legacy appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Medical marijuana plants are pictured as they dry in the Los Angeles area. Photo by Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

    Medical marijuana plants are pictured as they dry in the Los Angeles area. Photo by Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

    Cannabis may ease your chronic pain, but pass on the spliff if you’re worried about anxiety. Those are two takeaways from a federal advisory released Thursday by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The comprehensive review pinpoints the conditions where cannabis can provide a benefit and where it can’t.

    “We conducted an in-depth and broad review of the most recent research to establish firmly what the science says and to highlight areas that still need further examination,” Marie McCormick, a Harvard pediatrician who chaired the review panel, said in a statement. “As laws and policies continue to change, research must also.”

    Laws are certainly changing. Last year’s ballot measures saw more states vote on marijuana access than ever before. To date, 28 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico have legalized medical marijuana, while eight of those states and the District also allow recreational cannabis.

    Yet despite 20 years of legal marijuana usage, the clinical benefits of the substance remain poorly understood. Federal law still classifies marijuana as illegal, which has stifled when and where it can be used for scientific studies.

    So, McCormick and 15 other medical experts spent most of last year combing through more than 10,000 studies on cannabis to comprehend where this medical field stands and what researchers should explore next. Their review looked at studies involved in everything from anorexia to Parkinson’s disease to cancer to car crashes. They rated the strength of the evidence for each condition as for “conclusive or substantial,” “moderate,” or “limited.” Overall, the panel made 100 conclusions on the health impacts of cannabis use.

    Along with the conclusive evidence that cannabis can help chronic pain, the team found strong support that marijuana soothes multiple sclerosis symptoms and nausea during chemotherapy. However, they found insufficient support that marijuana can cure cancer and aid conditions like traumatic brain injury.

    The full report is here, but you can see more highlights on anxiety disorders, appetite and dementia below:

    The post What medical marijuana can and can’t do for your health appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett speaks during a live television segment while in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, March 12, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing   (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS HEADSHOT) - RTR3GQM0

    White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett. Photo by REUTERS/Larry Downing

    A top adviser to President Obama on Thursday said the president would take some time off after leaving the White House but then go “right back to working hard” to advance his political agenda.

    In a wide-ranging interview with PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff, White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett said Obama “wants to continue to be a force for good” and “will speak out when he thinks his voice can move the needle.”

    The president will want to “make a difference, and be an inspiration for those who are looking for positive change in our country,” Jarrett said.

    Jarrett added that the 55-year-old Obama was still a “young man” with a long public life ahead of him after leaving the presidency. Obama’s predecessor, President George W. Bush, was 62 when he stepped down in 2009.

    Jarrett, who has known the president and Michelle Obama for nearly three decades, has served as a senior White House adviser for all eights years of Obama’s presidency.

    She did not rule out running for public office after leaving the White House. “I still want to continue to work on issues that I care a great deal about and to be as helpful as I can,” she said.

    Jarrett also touched on President-elect Donald Trump’s potential impact on Obama’s legacy, arguing that repealing the Affordable Care Act without having a replacement plan would be a mistake.

    “I really look at the Affordable Care Act through the lens of the many, many people across our country who I’ve had the privilege of meeting, many who would not be here, were it not for the Affordable Care Act,” she said.

    Jarrett also discussed Obama’s legacy on race relations, a topic the president addressed in his farewell speech in Chicago last Tuesday.

    “It takes time to change our culture. And it’s a work in progress,” she said. “Simply electing an African-American president doesn’t suddenly make our country post-racial.”

    Still, Jarrett argued the country made progress under Obama. “By every single possible metric you can think of,” she said, “I think our country is moving forward.”

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    President Barack Obama makes a speech to the Cuban people in the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso, in Havana. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    President Barack Obama makes a speech to the Cuban people in the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso, in Havana. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is ending a longstanding immigration policy that allows any Cuban who makes it to U.S. soil to stay and become a legal resident, a senior administration official said Thursday.

    The repeal of the “wet foot, dry foot” policy is effective immediately, according the official. The decision follows months of negotiations focused in part on getting Cuba to agree to take back people who had arrived in the U.S.

    The U.S. and Cuba planned to issue a joint statement later Thursday. The official insisted on anonymity in order to detail the change ahead of the announcement.

    The official said the Cubans gave no assurances about treatment of those sent back to the country, but said political asylum remains an option for those concerned about persecution if they return.

    Obama is using an administrative rule change to end the policy. Donald Trump could undo that rule after becoming president next week. He has criticized Obama’s moves to improve relations with Cuba. But ending a policy that has allowed hundreds of thousands of people to come to the United States without a visa also aligns with Trump’s commitment to tough immigration policies.

    The “wet foot, dry foot” policy was put in place in 1995 by President Bill Clinton as a revision of a more liberal immigration policy. Until then, Cubans caught at sea trying to make their way to the United States were allowed into the country and were able to become legal residents after a year. The U.S. was reluctant to send people back to the communist island then run by Fidel Castro, and the Cuban government also generally refused to accept repatriated citizens.

    The Cuban government has in the past complained bitterly about the special immigration privileges, saying they encourage Cubans to risk dangerous escape trips and drain the country of professionals. But it has also served as a release valve for the single-party state, allowing the most dissatisfied Cubans to seek better lives outside and become sources of financial support for relatives on the island.

    Relations between the United States and Cuba were stuck in a Cold War freeze for decades, but Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro established full diplomatic ties and opened embassies in their capitals in 2015. Obama visited Havana last March.

    U.S. and Cuban officials were meeting Thursday in Washington to coordinate efforts to fight human trafficking. A decades-old U.S. economic embargo, though, remains in place as does the Cuban Adjustment Act which lets Cubans become permanent residents a year after legally arriving in the U.S.

    The official said that in recent years, most people fleeing the island have done so for economic reasons or to take advantage of the benefits they know they can receive if they make it to the U.S.

    The official also cited an uptick in Cuban migration, particularly across the U.S.-Mexico border — an increase the official said reflected an expectation among Cubans that the Obama administration would soon move to end their special immigration status.

    Since October 2012, more than 118,000 Cubans have presented themselves at ports of entry along the border, according to statistics published by the Homeland Security Department. During the 2016 budget year, which ended in September, a five-year high of more than 41,500 people came through the southern border. An additional 7,000 people arrived between October and November.

    The influx has created burdens on other countries in the region that must contend with Cubans who have yet to reach the U.S. border, the official said.

    The Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program, which was started by President George W. Bush in 2006, is also being rescinded. The measure allowed Cuban doctors, nurses and other medical professionals to seek parole in the U.S. while on assignments abroad.

    People already in the pipeline under both “wet foot, dry foot” and the medical parole program will be able to continue the process toward getting legal status.

    The preferential treatment for Cubans reflected the political power of Cuban-Americans, especially in Florida, a critical state in presidential elections. That has been shifting in recent years. Older Cubans, particularly those who fled Castro’s regime, tend to reject Obama’s diplomatic overtures to Cuba. Younger Cuban-American voters have proven less likely than their parents and grandparents to define their politics by U.S.-Cuba relations. Exit polls show President Barack Obama managed roughly a split in the Florida Cuban vote in 2012, and Trump in November won the same group by a much narrower margin than many previous Republican nominees.

    Associated Press writers Matthew Lee in Washington, Michael Weissenstein in Miami and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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    British-born Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare poses with his sculpture called "How to Blow up Two Heads at Once (Ladies) 2006" at Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) September 23, 2008. The headless sculpture of women pointing pistols at each other is part of a five-month-long exhibition featuring life-size fibreglass mannequins wearing Dutch wax printed cottons, paintings, resin prints and high-definition video. REUTERS/Will Burgess (AUSTRALIA) - RTX8TLO

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: a profile of an artist who has lived on three continents and explores history and identity in today’s global culture.

    Jeffrey Brown has our story.

    JEFFREY BROWN: On a recent morning in Washington, D.C., this wind sculpture was lifted in and installed outside the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. It’s the latest in a series of public art works on display around the world by the artist Yinka Shonibare.

    YINKA SHONIBARE, Artist: It’s a freestanding sculpture, but it’s a very dynamic sculpture, and it’s very colorful. And, also, it’s deceptive, because, from a distance, it feels like it’s actually soft material.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Playful, deceptive, full of contradiction, the stuff of Shonibare’s works, most of all the sculptures for which he’s best known, colonial-style figures, some headless, some with globes for heads, in brightly colored African-style costumes.

    YINKA SHONIBARE: Actually, my work is really breaking down stereotypes, saying, you know what? What you see is not necessarily what you get. So, you might actually want to take time to find out more about something before you then start to make assumptions about it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Shonibare himself is a mix of identities. Born in London in 1962, he moved to his family’s homeland in Nigeria at three years old, and then returned to London to study fine art.

    At 19, he contracted a viral infection in his spine that left him partially paralyzed. He also began to see his way forward as an artist, through an unintentionally provocative question that came from a teacher.

    YINKA SHONIBARE: One of my teachers said, why aren’t you making authentic African art? I felt that, actually, what’s authentic African art, or what’s authentic identity in a global, modern world?

    And so those questions have been with me since. And I have explored those questions in many ways.

    JEFFREY BROWN: For example, those so-called African fabrics he uses, Shonibare actually found them in the Brixton area of London, but they were originally batik patterns from Indonesia brought by the Dutch to West Africa.

    YINKA SHONIBARE: So, the fabric is really an expression of the kind of hybrid identity. I’m suggesting that it’s African, and it’s also Dutch. It’s also Indonesian. And that’s OK.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Why are so many of them headless or have globes as heads?

    YINKA SHONIBARE: First of all, I wanted to produce figures that didn’t belong to one particular race.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You wanted to take race out of it?

    YINKA SHONIBARE: Yes, I wanted to take race out of the picture. A lot of the figures are of a mixed race. They are neither white nor black.

    And I think that, also, I wanted to get away from the binary, the dividing of people. I felt that we’re all one humanity. So I wanted to find a way to represent one humanity, and to also take the race equation out of it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But while ideas run throughout his work, there’s also that playfulness and a concern for beauty and color.

    YINKA SHONIBARE: I think it’s very important for the audience to be able to actually engage with the work. I don’t want people to run away from my work, you know?

    I want people to be attracted to the work. I want to draw them in. And I think color is one way of doing that. And then you can, if you wish to say something, people might be more sympathetic or be willing to engage and listen to you.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A recent sculptural installation, titled the British Library, 6,000 books with the names of immigrants who’ve contributed to British society, is a more direct kind of commentary on contemporary issues.

    YINKA SHONIBARE: I don’t necessarily think that artists can single-handedly change the world. I think that if you really wanted to do that, I think you should go into politics.

    I think that, as an artist, you have different concerns. The work can be funny, it can be ironic, it can be engaging, it can be dark, it can be entertaining, it can provoke, but not — it should never be an instruction.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Can I just ask you finally a personal question about your disability? It obviously changed your life. Did it change your art?

    YINKA SHONIBARE: It took me a long time to try to recover and get back to my profession.

    I have devised ways of working. I have a studio with a lot of assistants, and I design a lot of things, and I also paint. But I developed a way of working that I’m used to.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You don’t see an impact on the content or the work itself?

    YINKA SHONIBARE: I don’t see an impact on the content or the work itself, but perhaps my level of empathy has actually increased as a result of what I have experienced personally.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yinka Shonibare’s latest wind sculpture is his seventh on display. He’s now creating a new series that will begin in the spring of 2018 at the entrance of Central Park in New York City.

    From the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C., I’m Jeffrey Brown for the “PBS NewsHour.”

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    U.S. President Barack Obama holds up a padlock alongside Master Lock's Senior Vice President Bob Rice as Obama tours the factory in Milwaukee, Wisconsin February 15, 2012. Obama toured the business to highlight his 'blueprint for an economy built to last'.    REUTERS/Jason Reed   (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS) - RTR2XWMW

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    STEVE INSKEEP: We’re going to dig a little deeper now into the economic legacy of President Obama.

    He came into office at a desperate moment, amid a financial crisis and the great recession. He’s gotten some of the credit for a long and sustained recovery. But there are just as many questions about whether he took the right steps and helped the right people. For many people, wages are only now starting to climb.

    Economics correspondent Paul Solman has the story, part of his weekly series on Thursdays, Making Sense.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And it is good to be back in Chicago.


    PAUL SOLMAN: President Obama in 2010 at Ford’s Chicago assembly plant.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The year before I took office, this industry lost hundreds of thousands of jobs. Sales plunged 40 percent — 40 percent. Two of the big three automakers, GM and Chrysler, were on the brink of liquidation.


    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And I’m convinced — I’m convinced we’re going to rebuild not only the auto industry, but the economy better and stronger than before. And at its heart is going to be three powerful words: Made in America. Made in America.


    PAUL SOLMAN: And, indeed, say local union officials, nine years after the crash of ’08:

    CHRIS PENA, President, UAW Local 551: We have more people working in our facility than we ever have now. And we have also been working 24/7 on three production shifts.

    SCOTT HOULDIESON, Vice President, UAW Local 551: There wouldn’t be an auto industry that looks like what we have today had it not been for the bailout.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Ever since Obama then, the U.S. auto industry has been going gangbusters, the stock market too.

    ANDY WILLIAMS JR., Foreclosure Paralegal: You will see a lot of houses will be boarded up.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But when it comes to victims of the housing collapse, says foreclosure activist Andy Williams Jr.:

    ANDY WILLIAMS JR.: Look at our conditions in our neighborhood. It’s still terrible. It still needs to be revitalized.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So what is the economic legacy of Barack Obama? Robust recovery, or too little, too late?

    In the shadow of Chicago’s Trump Tower, at the annual convening of the economics profession, we assembled a panel to assess the record.

    Cecilia Rouse served on the president’s Council of Economic Advisers from 2009 to 2011.

    CECILIA ROUSE, Dean, Princeton School of Public & International Affairs: I think that what President Obama did was, he rescued an economy that was in freefall. And I think that he saved us from a great depression. Obviously, we would love for economic growth to have been more robust in the years since. But I think it has been a success.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Alan Krueger also served on the Council.

    ALAN KRUEGER, Former Chairman, Council of Economic Advisers: We have had 75 straight months of job growth. Over 15 million jobs have been added; 22 million more people have health insurance coverage than they did before.

    That’s in spite of the fact that many of the tools that President Obama requested to help strengthen the recovery, like investing more in infrastructure or raising the minimum wage, Congress refused to act on.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But from the left, Darrick Hamilton, president of the mostly African-American National Economic Association, begged to differ.

    DARRICK HAMILTON, The New School: I would say it was a missed opportunity. He certainly faced a catastrophe when he came into office, but nothing fundamentally changed the trajectory towards inequality.

    If we characterize an economy as being in a catastrophe at unemployment rates greater than 8 percent, the black unemployment rate is still above 8 percent. So, frankly, black Americans are still in a great depression, or great recession at the very least.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Glenn Hubbard, who ran President George W. Bush’s economic council, differed from the right.

    GLENN HUBBARD, Dean, Columbia Business School: I think there were two very big missed opportunities. The first was a failure by the Obama administration to focus on economic growth. But there’s a second missed opportunity that’s really bipartisan, and I think Republicans share blame in as well, which is the failure to support work.

    We need to support work by low-skilled people. And that’s not a free lunch. That is a dramatic expansion in the Earned Income Tax Credit, particularly for childless workers, who would typically be younger men and women entering the labor force.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Let’s take these alleged missed opportunities in turn, starting with continuing inequality, especially for African-Americans.

    CECILIA ROUSE: In fact, President Obama has put in more policies to try to pull that back, through increased improvements in the EITC, through the Affordable Care Act.

    PAUL SOLMAN: That’s the Earned Income Tax Credit.

    CECILIA ROUSE: The tax credit, so that we actually saw more progress on reducing inequality than had been made in — since I think the Johnson administration.

    ALAN KRUEGER: Last year, we saw the strongest median income growth since the Bureau of Labor Statistics has been collecting data. We saw the biggest drop in poverty since they started collecting, since the 1960s.

    CECILIA ROUSE: Yes, the African-American unemployment rate is unacceptably high. It came down from a high of 16.8 percent. It’s down to 7.9 percent. Do we need to do more? Absolutely. But there has been progress, and I think it’s important to recognize that.

    PAUL SOLMAN: No? That’s not true?

    DARRICK HAMILTON: Well, we consider the types of jobs and the fact that it is still 7.9 percent. And then if we invoke the paramount indicator of economic security, wealth, then we know there’s virtually no progress that’s been made under the Barack Obama administration.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So I’m looking at the numbers here. Since 2007, November of 2007, jobs added by race or ethnicity, Hispanic, five million, almost, black, two-point-something million, Asians, same, white down by a million jobs, just about.

    So, wouldn’t you, if you were a rural white American, think this administration simply didn’t do anything for me?

    DARRICK HAMILTON: That’s a delusion. The notion that white Americans are suffering, well, they’re facing greater competition than they have perhaps in the past. It still doesn’t fundamentally change the structure of where we are.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But hasn’t white America under the Obama administration been left behind, or certainly feel that it’s been left behind?

    ALAN KRUEGER: Look, we lost over eight million jobs in 2008 and 2009. That was a very big hole to dig our way out of.

    The trend would’ve been much worse if we’d not — had not started on the recovery. In fact, the president proposed in the American Jobs Act additional infrastructure spending, support for state and local governments, which Congress only enacted a small part of.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Still, said the critics from the left and right:

    GLENN HUBBARD: A long-term infrastructure program would have made a great deal of sense, and frankly still does today. But that’s not what the Obama administration proposed. I think we need to have a more holistic structural agenda for lower-income Americans, rather than just treating it as a problem of recession and recovery.

    The advice would be to focus on skill development and on support for work.

    DARRICK HAMILTON: And Glenn — Glenn actually proposed Something. He said, had the original jobs bill around infrastructure had been targeted to be more permanent, that that could’ve fundamentally changed the structure of the economy.

    CECILIA ROUSE: I want to just jump in on the skills development, because there was increases in the Pell Grant to make them more available to more students. There were investments in student loans.

    ALAN KRUEGER: And record high school graduation.

    CECILIA ROUSE: And record high school graduation rates last year.

    So, the administration was focused on skills development. I think we would have liked to have done more, but, again, we were working with a Congress that wasn’t so cooperative.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Isn’t that fair?

    GLENN HUBBARD: I think the Obama administration did make several efforts in skill development. I just don’t think there was enough of a structural focus.

    We just had a presidential election that shook the country, because I think the view that many economic elites had on both sides of the aisle wasn’t that connected with the skills and employment prospects of many Americans.

    So, I think, while the administration made some progress, it clearly wasn’t enough.

    ALAN KRUEGER: Don’t forget, it wasn’t the president who was on the ballot. And the Democratic candidate did receive three million more votes. So, I think it’s difficult to interpret the election as a reflection of the president’s economic agenda and his economic results.


    GLENN HUBBARD: I disagree with that. The Republicans control the Congress and the White House. And I don’t think history will be that kind to the latter part of the administration’s legacy.

    DARRICK HAMILTON: I mean, I would agree with Glenn. I can’t believe I keep saying that.


    DARRICK HAMILTON: I would agree with Glenn, in that Obama’s economic legacy was on the table in this election. Trump put it on the table, front and center, along with a lot of other things. And I think Obama actually campaigned to defend his economic legacy.

    We needed bolder, stronger, more fundamental, not tinkering, ideas to really structurally change the U.S. economy.

    CECILIA ROUSE: Absolutely, the bolder the better. But, you know, the president is not king, and he can’t just wave a magic wand and do all that he wants to do.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Like help many of the people who lost their homes in the financial crisis.

    ANDY WILLIAMS JR.: I think it was backwards. I think the money should have been given to the people to revitalize the community, and not help the ones who were part of the problem and not the solution.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Again, both the left and right had a similar prescription.

    GLENN HUBBARD: A mass refinancing of home mortgages.

    DARRICK HAMILTON: As opposed to thinking about banks.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, I put the final question to one of the president’s former chief economic advisers.

    ALAN KRUEGER: Which is, wasn’t it unfair that the banking system got rescued…


    ALAN KRUEGER: … auto sector got rescued, and a lot of the rest of the U.S. economy was left to fend for its own?

    Absolutely. It was fundamentally unfair. It was necessary, however, because the consequences would’ve been much worse for the U.S. economy if the financial sector was allowed to implode. But, certainly, there’s much more to be done.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And it will be up to a new administration to do it.

    Reporting from Chicago, this is economics correspondent Paul Solman.

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    U.S. President Barack Obama talks with his advisor Valerie Jarrett upon his arrival back at the White House in Washington March 30, 2016.REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque - RTSCWA2

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we continue our look at the Obama years.

    Today, the president had a surprise parting gift for Joe Biden. He presented the vice president with the highest award a civilian can receive: the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Behind the scenes, Joe’s candid, honest counsel has made me a better president and a better commander in chief.

    From the Situation Room, to our weekly lunches, to our huddles after, when everybody else has cleared out of the room, he has been unafraid to give it to me straight, even if we disagree, in fact, especially when we disagree.

    And all of this makes him, I believe, the finest vice president we have ever seen. And I also think he has been a lion of American history.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Another person who has been by the president’s side for the entire ride is his senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett.

    We sat down at the White House earlier today, and I began by asking what it will feel like to walk away after eight years.

    VALERIE JARRETT, Senior Adviser to President Obama: Oh, my gosh.

    Well, there’s an enormous amount of emotion. First of all, it’s been the privilege of a lifetime to be able to serve our country from the White House, to serve this president, who I have now known for 26 years. And it’s hard to leave. But it’s fine.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you’re turning the White House over to someone who has said he wants to undo, dismantle most of what happened during the Obama administration.

    Just last night, the United States Senate took another step toward repeal of Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act. There was a budget vote, which is going to lead to other steps, which will lead to repeal.

    Just yesterday, the president-elect called Obamacare a complete and total disaster.

    VALERIE JARRETT: I would really look at the Affordable Care Act through the lens of the many, many people across our country who I have had the privilege of meeting, many of who wouldn’t be here were it not for the Affordable Care Act.

    And so I think it’s very easy to say repeal and replace, but we have been encouraging the Republicans, since the president first started embarking on this effort, to put in place a plan for affordable care to come up with their best ideas.

    And they have had, what, 50, 60 votes to repeal, and not a single replacement plan. So…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, they say that’s what they’re going to do. They’re going to get rid of what’s there now and replace it with something much better.

    VALERIE JARRETT: Well, what’s the something much better? That’s my question. That’s the question the president has been asking for eight years right now.

    So, if there is a something better, let’s hear it. What’s the secret? As he said last week when we had an event focusing just on the Affordable Care Act, show me. Show us all the plan. You have had eight years to come up with a replacement. Where is it?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is there any other piece of the Obama legacy, whether it’s immigration, whether it’s the executive orders that the president implemented, any other issue or step taken that you think stands a good chance of surviving under the Trump administration?

    VALERIE JARRETT: Well, you mentioned immigration.

    And, obviously, the president granted relief to the young people who entered our country through no fault of their own, who have grown up as American citizens, and who he thinks have a right to stay here. And we would hope that they would allow that to move forward.

    I think campaigns are one thing. And let’s just see what happens after the president-elect takes office and the realities of the plight of so many people around our country really begin to sink in.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama has said he doesn’t view the election result as a personal repudiation, but how is it not, when he campaigned around the country saying, this is about what I have done, this is about my work?

    VALERIE JARRETT: Well, he wasn’t actually on the ballot.

    And we did learn is that his popularity, which is at a high, wasn’t transferable. And, obviously, that’s disappointing to him. He and the first lady worked really hard to help Secretary Clinton win, and they were not successful in that event.

    But I don’t think that that really reflects a repudiation. There is so much about what’s happened over the last eight years that I think has the support of the American people, that I think it will be harder than it looks to reverse that progress.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The president has said that he believes race relations in America are better than when he took office. There’s clearly some debate about that. Some don’t agree.

    How do you see that?

    VALERIE JARRETT: I think what the president said is race relations are better when you look at the arc of our history, that we have constantly been making improvements.

    What we have seen since he was elected is, thanks to the video camera, a lot more evidence of tensions that still exist. Those tensions were there before we had a video camera. We just didn’t see them on the news and in the social media the way we are today. But it takes time to change our culture, and it’s a work in progress.

    And simply by electing an African-American president doesn’t suddenly make our election post-racial.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In his farewell address this week in Chicago — you were there — the president talked about threats to American democracy now.

    Is he referring to Donald Trump?

    VALERIE JARRETT: No, I think what he is saying is, look, in order for us to make our country as strong as it has to be, the founding fathers understood that democracy means we have to all participate in it.

    Those self-evident principles of life and liberty, pursuit of happiness, they’re not self-executing. They require each of us to get engaged. And what he is really concerned about is to ensure that the American people appreciate their power to influence the democracy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The president is leaving office with a high approval rating, over 50 percent. He’s getting credit from many quarters.

    But there is also criticism out there, including from Democrats, that he didn’t do enough to reach out to members of Congress to get his agenda accomplished, that he should have done more, gone the extra mile.

    Is that a fair criticism?

    VALERIE JARRETT: Well, you know, Judy, I have been here since day one, January 20 of 2009. And I have watched how hard the president has worked.

    I have watched how every single day, he comes to the office focused on one thing, and that’s what’s in the best interest of the American people. He has rolled up his sleeves. He’s worked as hard as I have ever seen a president work.

    And that includes his outreach the members of Congress. So, should we have done more? Well, of course, you always wish you could do more. The work is never finished. But I think he’s proud of his record.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You have been at moments critical of Republicans for not attending state dinners, for not participating in some of the events that they were invited to by this White House, for not engaging more in the other direction.

    Right now, the Democrats are on the outs. Should they engage?

    VALERIE JARRETT: Well, I think they will.

    I mean, I think part of what we have learned certainly over the course of the last eight years is, if the Republicans had engaged, even though we’re very proud of the progress we have made, we would be so much further.

    And what I observed in my criticism really, Judy, was much deeper than whether or not they attend a state dinner, although I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to come and represent our country when we are inviting foreign dignitaries here.

    But the real point is, they put their short-term political interests ahead of what was best for our country.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Vice President Biden said the other day, when I spoke with him, he said: We were not clear enough in this election that we understood the pressure working people, working Americans were under, and that we had concrete solutions to that. We never got that across to them.

    VALERIE JARRETT: Yes, we had a hard time getting that message out.

    And there was — it’s troubling, Judy, because there was a disconnect between the policies that the president has embraced since he was first campaigning back in 2007 and ‘8, and the feeling that many people have that those policies were not meant for them.

    But they certainly were. The president has always believed in growing the middle class, providing room for everybody. And so it’s certainly what the president believes. And I think what the vice president said and what the president believes is, is that the Democratic Party has to do a better job of reaching out.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Donald Trump has tweeted a few times in December about the economy. At one point, he wrote: “The world was gloomy before I won. There was no hope. Now the market is up nearly 10 percent. Christmas spending is over $1 trillion.” In another tweet, he took credit for rising consumer confidence.

    VALERIE JARRETT: I think that, if you look at what has happened over the last eight years, in large part due to the grit and determination of the American people, we have rebuilt our economy, and it is strong. And we’re real proud that we’re going to turn it over in as good a shape as it’s in.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, no particular reaction to what he said? He was wrong?

    VALERIE JARRETT: Well, what incoming president who is enjoying a good economy wouldn’t want to figure out how they can take credit for it? I think that’s par for the course.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: As new information is coming out about Russian interference in the election, in retrospect, should President Obama have called out the Russians earlier? He had information earlier that this was going on.

    VALERIE JARRETT: You know, he — the one thing I can say to you about the president is that he is thoughtful. He’s deliberate. He takes in all the information he has, and then he makes the best judgment he can. And he’s very comfortable with the decision he made.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Has his thinking changed about what he’s going to do after being president, after being in office, given the result? Does he feel more of a responsibility now to go out and defend his legacy?

    VALERIE JARRETT: I think he will speak out when he thinks his voice can move the needle, make a difference, and be an inspiration to those who are looking for positive change in our country.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And what about Valerie Jarrett? I saw you quoted as saying you were going to be moving between your hometown of Chicago, Washington, where your daughter is, and some other places. What about you?

    VALERIE JARRETT: Lots of sleep.

    And then, after I have had some rest, I will make some decisions.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think you will continue to work with President Obama and Mrs. Obama?

    VALERIE JARRETT: Oh, I will help President Obama and Mrs. Obama for the rest of my life in any way that I can.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Run for public office?

    VALERIE JARRETT: You know what? You’re not first person who has asked me that question.

    I toyed with it, as you would probably remember, when the president was elected and there was a vacancy in his seat. And he appealed to me and said: You know, I know what it’s like in the Senate. And I know what I want to do here in the White House. And I think you will be happier here.

    And, boy, was he right. So, we will see.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But you’re not ruling it out?

    VALERIE JARRETT: I’m not ruling out anything right now, because I know, after eight years here, you are not in a position to make any really important, long decisions that affect your life.

    I know that I need some rest. I need to gain some perspective. I still want to continue to work on issues that I care a great deal about, and to be as helpful as I can.

    So, whether that leads me to elected office, or whether it leads me to help a not-for-profit that’s trying to do something important, we will see.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Valerie Jarrett, thank you so much.

    The post How a senior Obama adviser views his record appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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